It was a master performance. The former IMF chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, in his first public declarations since his dramatic arrest and equally dramatic release on charges of rape, managed to sound contrite without actually issuing an apology.

He said he was guilty of “moral failure” towards his wife and his friends and had caused them great hurt which he regretted. He also said he had let down the French people who had placed their hopes in him. “I was not there for that rendezvous,” he said. However, there was no apology for the chamber maid who had accused him.

A record number of viewers in France watched the former IMF chief's first public declarations since his return earlier this month from New York, after charges of rape brought by a hotel chambermaid on 14 May 2011 were dropped by the office of the Public Prosecutor.

Brandishes report

Speaking of what happened in his suite on that day, Mr Strauss-Kahn said: “What happened involved neither violence nor constraint: no criminal act.” Repeatedly brandishing the report issued by the New York Public Prosecutor Cyrus Vance Jr., Mr Strauss Kahn said there was no trace or injury either on his person or that of Ms. Nafisatou Diallo, the Guinean maid who accused him. “It is not I who says this or my lawyers but the prosecutor's report: Nafisatou Diallo lied all the way down the line. She gave so many different versions that not a word is believable. She lied at every single questioning.”

It was a moral failing of which I am not proud, but there were no scratches, no wounds, no sign of violence. All that is contained in the prosecutor's report. It was an inappropriate relation but more than that it was a moral mistake,” said Mr Strauss-Kahn. He said there was no payment for sex.

He said he had planned to run for the French presidency but he was “obviously” no longer a candidate for any kind of office. “I however remain convinced that the Socialists must come to power for the good of the nation.”

Feminists demonstrated outside the studio and several political commentators found Mr. Strauss- Kahn's performance “too slick to be credible”.

No detail

Ms Diallo's lawyers were swift to pick up on the fact that he went into no detail about what exactly happened and said they were determined to pursue the case. “What was interesting is what he didn't say,” said Douglas Wigdor, who represents the Guinean maid. “He didn't say anything about what actually happened. I look forward to questioning him under oath in my office. We are going to pursue that case aggressively,” he said.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn also denied attacking Tristane Banon, a young French author who is the daughter of a family friend. Reports circulating in the French press allege that Mr. Strauss-Kahn told the police he had tried to “steal a kiss” from Ms Banon.

On television on Sunday, Mr. Strauss-Kahn did not deny that there had been an encounter. “I was interviewed as a witness. I told the truth that in this meeting there had been no aggression, no violence, I will say no more. The version that has been reported is imaginary, slanderous,” he added.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn indicated that is was not the end of the story for him. He said he had filed a defamation suit against Ms Banon and said he would not enter into a bargain or a pay-off with Ms Diallo. He also hinted at a conspiracy to oust him or a honey trap to entice him. “We shall see,” was his grim reply.

Financial crisis

Asked about his analysis of the present financial crisis plaguing Europe and the U.S., Mr Strauss- Kahn immediately became animated and loquacious. His suggestion was that the Greek debt should quite simply be wiped out, with every nation in Europe bearing the cost.

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